Like Fingernails on a Blackboard

Actually, someone scraping their nails across a blackboard doesn’t really bother me, but there are plenty of things that do. so I thought that I’d present some to you to see if you agree.

One thing that drives me nuts is when I buy a cigar that hasn’t been properly stored. Our entire humidor (which is cavernous) is meticulously maintained at 70 degrees and 70 percent relative humidity. When you walk in, you can really feel the moisture in the air. I’ve never had a single stick from there that wasn’t right. But I’ve gone into some shops, especially the ones that use free-standing cases for humidors, where they’re not keeping an eye on the hygrometer. I went into one such shop with a friend and bought a cigar (even though I had some with me, I’ll always buy one when I go into someone else’s shop). We sat down, and when I cut the cigar, using my own cutter which is always sharp, the cap shattered, which says to me that the cigar is dry. I lit the cigar and within the first half-inch, the wrapper cracked about two inches down the side. What happened next was even more annoying. I brought it to the attention of the clerk, so they could check the case to see if there was something wrong with their humidifier and he acted offended. There’s good customer service for you.

Something that I can’t understand is lighting a pipe with a torch lighter. A soft flame usually ranges between 500 and 800 degrees Fahrenheit, which won’t damage briar. A torch lighter flame is 1700 degrees or more, which will definitely burn the wood. We’ve had pipes returned that have burned out, and based upon the location of the hole, we can pretty well guess that it was caused by using a torch. Since we can’t prove it, we usually make the exchange, but some of our manufacturers will give us credit for burnouts except for when they suspect that a torch lighter was used. If the burnout is on the side of the bowl facing the smoker and off to the left or right side about 2/3rds the way up the bowl, the manufacturers become suspicious. For me, I wouldn’t expose something that I’ve spent good money on to anything that would damage it, but that’s just me. If you need a windproof pipe lighter, use a Zippo.

A lot of good-natured kidding goes on among pipe smokers about another person’s choice of tobacco. The Latakia lovers will tease Virginia smokers because they think that Virginia blends taste like air, and Virginia fans will give the Latakiaphiles a hard time about the reek of their blends. Everyone who smokes more natural blends will jump on aromatic smokers. This is fine, but I’ve witnessed some real arguments over tobaccos. This is really silly in  my mind. I believe in “Like what you smoke, smoke what you like.”

Finally, I can’t stand it when someone goes off on a pedantic rant. Oh, wait, that’s what I’m doing, isn’t it? Never mind.

About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at or by calling 1-800-494-9144.